The unusually warm temperatures throughout much of the Northeast have reshaped the traditional retail landscape this holiday season — but for every Macy's that can't sell a coat, there's someone else enjoying a windfall.
"People are getting into the habit of not putting on their coats, and they are going outside to play sports or work on projects," said Scott Bernhardt, president of Planalytics, a global business weather intelligence firm. "We are not just talking about a pleasant day or two. The warm weather this season has been a sustained phenomenon."
Golf is one sport experiencing an unexpected extension of its season. Courses in the Northeast that decided to stay open during the past few weeks have seen a recent boon to business thanks to the mild weather.
"Typically, we are never open later than the 8th of December," said Scott MacDonald, who manages the pro shop at the Olde Salem Greens golf course in Salem, Massachusetts. "It's been crazy this month. We are still open, and the course has been booked solid."
Last December, Olde Salem Greens made about $3,000 in gift certificate sales. This year, gift certificates, which can also be applied toward merchandise purchases, have already reached almost $17,000 and are on pace to hit $20,000 for December, according to MacDonald.
"We sold $995 worth of gift certificates alone on Saturday," he said.
Even golf courses as far north as Maine are seeing an influx of business. One of the few Maine golf courses still open this time of year, Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough, had more than 100 golfers on both days last weekend.
"A lot of the appeal is that it is a novelty to say you are playing golf in Maine in December," Nonesuch owner Dan Hourihan said. "People enjoy it because it makes the winter seem shorter, which has been great for us."
The warm weather is also helping the outdoor home improvement business. Based on Planalytics research, overall transactions this November and December at do-it-yourself stores in the United States were up about 1 percent due to more favorable weather. In addition, transactions for lumber and building materials departments are up about 3 percent from last November and December.
Home Depot would not comment on specific store sales mid-quarter, but spokesman Stephen Holmes noted that warm weather in December helps drive outdoor projects.
"While we may not see a rush for certain winter-specific products, customers take on other projects with the milder temps," said Holmes in an email.
The mild temperatures enable people to plant bulbs, mulch garden beds and clean their gutters, which otherwise might be frozen.
"Our shoppers are staying in that gardening mode longer," said Zack Turck, horticulture instructor at Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, New York. "They are seeing roses blooming in the parks and on the streets. So, they are now inquiring about them. Normally, we wouldn't even stock roses this time of year. Maybe if we had foresight about the current weather, roses would be selling."
Another Brooklyn business owner who wishes he had similar prescience to predict the warm winter is Felipe Lavalle, owner of a bike tour company, Get Up and Ride. Lavalle closes down his bike tour and rental business during the winter months since fewer tourists are inclined to ride in cold and snow. However, this season's warm weather is pressing him to re-examine his otherwise established business model.
"I have noticed more calls than I would traditionally get for private tours this season," he said. "A part of me is kicking myself because I realize that maybe we should have stayed open for longer this December."